Academic debate was shut down during the Covid crisis. We must not let that happen again. (Comment from Prof. Paul Dolan, psycho…

Consider the case of the pandemic. The prevailing narrative, especially among academics like me, is that lockdowns are both required and effective. So, if I am not fervently supporting lockdowns, then I am assumed to be opposed to any form of restrictions. This has been the reaction from across the academy when I have variously suggested: that the stay at home messaging was so effective that it might have resulted in more life years being lost from missed cancer treatments; that middle-aged decision-makers might have been unduly influenced by their own fear of dying; that the life experiences of younger people have been seen as a luxury good whilst we focus on the life expectancies of older people; and that it unethical to scare people into believing that their own risks from the virus are higher than they really are.

At no point have I ever endorsed a no-restrictions policy. At no point have other “lockdown sceptics” more prominent than me ever suggested that we simply let the virus rip. When Sunetra Gupta and colleagues argued for the focussed protection of older people (which is a long way from doing nothing), they were rounded on by many in the academy, and subjected to considerable personal abuse. Given all the uncertainties surrounding COVID, none of us can know with any degree of confidence what the right approach to the virus is, and I remain deeply sceptical of anyone who is so confident that strict lockdowns are best for social welfare in the UK.

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